How much better off would the Blazers be had they drafted Durant instead of Oden?

No one can fault the job that Portland GM Kevin Pritchard has done so far. In 2005, when he was the Blazers’ interim coach, he reportedly advised then-GM John Nash and Steve Patterson to draft Chris Paul at #3, but the duo instead decided to trade the pick and ended up with Martell Webster at #6. He was promoted to assistant GM in 2006, and was involved in a series of deals that resulted in the acquisition of the draft rights of Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. In 2007, he was promoted to general manager. That summer, in addition to drafting Greg Oden, he turned Zach Randolph into a trade exception that he used to steal Rudy Fernandez from the Phoenix Suns.

Other than an ill-advised threat to sue anyone that tried to sign Darius Miles, it’s tough to second-guess anything that Pritchard has done in Portland.

But what if he had drafted Kevin Durant instead of Greg Oden? How much better off would the franchise be with Durant on the roster?

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Oden getting frustrated

He missed the entirety of the 2007-08 season with microfracture surgery on his right knee and now he has a chipped left kneecap which has bitten a good chunk out of this season. The Trail Blazers mishandled the injury, calling it “day-to-day” when in fact it should have been labeled from the start as a potential long-term injury. Jason Quick of The Oregonian does a nice job of breaking down the timeline and Oden’s resulting frustration.

All the while, questions, both inside the Blazers locker room and in public mounted: What is going on? Is he really trying to get back? Why isn’t he playing by now?

Oden was stung by the mounting criticism. A national radio talk show called him a “lemon” and a “bust.” He thought a local columnist questioned his desire to return.

“I get portrayed wrongly, like I don’t have a heart,” Oden said. “But I sit there and I try to explain to people what is going on, and it’s like they aren’t listening to me.”

There is pain, Oden says, and not just any pain, but biting pain. He said it so many times in interviews that he started saying it more demonstratively, in hopes that his louder tone would finally get someone to believe him.

“I don’t know how else to put it: There’s a difference between sore and painful, and this is painful,” Oden said.

He says if the team pushes him to play, he will do it. He just doesn’t know how effective he would be. He can’t run as fast, he can’t jump as high and he is not as agile.

“Look, I’m tired of sitting; I want to get out there,” Oden said. “But damn, if I did go out there and play, it may be worse having me out there. They’d be playing four-on-five most of the time.”

“To this day, there’s still no real timeline,” Oden said. “It’s 7 to 10 days and then see how it feels. Yeah, well, what if the 7 to 10 days comes and it doesn’t feel good? I’m sitting here like everyone else going. ‘What the …?’ I hope one of these days I don’t feel it, but right now, I do.”

I’m really rooting for this kid. He has had a rough go of it in his first two years, but he definitely flashed some potential this season. Keep in mind that he’s just 21 and if he can ever get his knees straightened out — that’s a big IF, I know — he has the ability to become a very good starting center in this league. He’s averaging 9.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks this season and if he can get enough experience and figure out how to stay out of foul trouble, he could be a force. (His PER of 17.80 is 12th amongst centers, ahead of Al Horford, Marc Gasol and Andrew Bogut.) Moreover, he seems a like a thoughtful, worldly guy, and I’d like to see him succeed.

No Love?

The rosters for the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge have been announced and there are a few surprises.

The rookie roster consists of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon, Rudy Fernandez, Michael Beasley, Brook Lopez, Greg Oden and Marc Gasol.

The sophomore roster includes Rodney Stuckey, Aaron Brooks, Kevin Durant, Wilson Chandler, Jeff Green, Al Thornton, Luis Scola, Al Horford and Thaddeus Young.

Kevin Love isn’t on the nine-man roster for the Rookie Challenge, and it’s a big, glaring snub. ESPN’s John Hollinger agrees.

For starters, the decision to select Eric Gordon ahead of Kevin Love for the rookies was completely inexcusable.

Don’t get me wrong; Gordon is going to have a fine career, it seems, and in almost any other year he’d be a shoo-in for the team. But he made this squad mainly because the forlorn Clippers have no choice but to play him extensive minutes.

As good as he’s looked, Gordon is the only rookie team member with a Player Efficiency Rating below the league average, while Love has a better PER than every player on the rookie team except Greg Oden. Love leads the league in offensive rebound rate, as I mentioned the other day, but his prodigious work on the boards has gone largely unnoticed because he plays only 23.2 minutes a game, far less than Gordon’s 32.2.

Love’s absence is especially surprising considering how the rookie roster is loaded with four guards (Rose, Westbrook, Mayo, Gordon), one G/F (Fernandez) and only one true forward (Beasley). You’d think that if it were a tossup between Gordon and Love (which it isn’t) that they’d at least want to get another true forward on the roster to balance things out.

Hollinger goes on to rail against the sophomore roster snubs, which included Wilson Chandler over Jamario Moon, Al Thornton over Carl Landry and the worst of all (he says) — Aaron Brooks over Ramon Sessions.

Interestingly, seven of the top 11 picks of the 2007 draft — Mike Conley, Yi Jianlian, Corey Brewer, Brandan Wright, Joakim Noah, Spencer Hawes and Acie Law — did NOT make the sophomore roster. (I counted Greg Oden amongst the four since he made the rookie roster.) Conversely, six of the top 11 picks in the 2008 draft did make the rookie team.

Greg Oden turns 21 and no one cares

Greg Oden turned 21 this past week and still doesn’t get carded.

So the next day i went to a resteraunt [sic] and sat in the bar and they carded all my friends except me, even when i went to a club they didnt card me at all. Its just seems different to me cause i feel like one of the best things about being 21 is when the people who works at a place dont think your 21 you get to whip out your i.d. and shove it back in there face. Ill never get that chance cause everybody already thinks im 50.

Good to see Oden has a sense of humor about how old he looks.

The Top 10 NBA Rookies by PER

John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating is a nice way to compare players without having to account for the number of minutes each guy gets. It’s an efficiency statistic, so just about everything is included. A PER of 15.00 is average for the position.

Let’s take a look at the top rookies. I’m only going to list guys that are getting more than 20 minutes per game…

1. Kevin Love, T-Wolves
PER: 16.39
Surprised? I am…a little. I really liked Love coming out of college, but he got off to a slow start and the trade Minnesota made (sending O.J. Mayo) to Memphis wasn’t looking too good early on. He’s not shooting the ball well (41%), but he’s rebounding like a champ (8.4 rpg in 22.7 mpg).

2. Greg Oden, Blazers
PER: 16.35
Technically, Oden is still a rookie since he missed all of last season due to injury. After Love, he has the second best rebound rate of all first-year players.

3. Brook Lopez, Nets
PER: 16.26
Rebounding is the stat that most easily translates from college to the pros, so it’s no surprise that three good rebounders top this list. In 29.5 minutes, Lopez is averaging 11.4 points and 8.2 rebounds, and he has more blocks per minute than Oden.

4. Rudy Fernandez, Blazers
PER: 16.25
Rudy has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game. His three-point shooting 39% is outstanding and he’s averaging 11.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 26.5 minutes per game. Plus, he was even voted into the Slam Dunk Contest as well.

5. Marc Gasol, Grizzlies
PER: 15.40
The other Gasol is getting starters minutes (30.6) in Memphis and is averaging 11.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

6. Russell Westbrook, Thunder
PER: 15.74
In January, Westbrook is averaging 15.7 points, 6.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 34.9 minutes of action. He got off to a slow start, but seems to be figuring things out now.

7. O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies
PER: 15.66
Of all the guys on this list, Mayo might be the guy that asked to do the most. He got off to a blistering start, but defenses are adjusting and his numbers are falling.

8. Derrick Rose, Bulls
PER: 15.45
He and Mayo play more than 37 minutes per game, which is by far tops on this list. It’s hard to argue with the 16.9 points and 6.4 assists that Rose produces every night. Point guard is arguably the toughest position in the NBA to learn as a rookie, and this guy sure looks like a keeper.

9. Michael Beasley, Heat
PER: 15.23
Beasley is getting better as the season wears on. He’s averaging 14.9 points (on 50% shooting) and 6.0 rebounds in January. He’s also as good as expected from long range (39%).

10. D.J. Augustin, Bobcats
PER: 13.75
It’s not easy being a point guard under Larry Brown, but Augustin is getting big minutes (28.4) and is producing 12.1 points and 4.1 assists per contest. His shooting (40%) is pretty suspect, though he’s very solid from long range (39%).


– Marreese Speights leads all rookies in PER (20.44) but only plays 15.9 minutes per game.

– Anthony Morrow and George Hill just missed the minutes per game cutoff. Otherwise, they would have been on the list.

– Given how tough it is to play point guard in the NBA, Derrick Rose still gets my vote for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls are asking him to play huge minutes, which is going to take its toll over the course of the season.

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